Christian Reconstructionist Takes David Barton to Task for Faulty History in The Jefferson Lies

I don’t know how large American Vision’s audience is but I suspect there is at least some overlap between David Barton’s Christian nation audience and American Vision’s Christian reconstruction constituency.

If so, this article today by Joel McDurmon could cause Mr. Barton some heartburn. Mr. McDurmon offers a devastating analysis of Barton’s chapter on Jefferson’s faith. He begins his critique by grounding it in his worldview:

In short, when we create a false reality of what a Christian and biblical society is or may be, we blind ourselves to the real changes and sacrifices we need to make. And in stretching the facts to create that false reality, we discredit ourselves and hand power and opportunity over to liberals to have free reign. But in the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves, because we have deceived ourselves, lied, and become complacent in the first place.

This is why I wish to offer an overview and partial critique of the important factual errors in Barton’s book. It is important that Christians see and understand the depth of these so they can have a true foundation from which to plan and to move forward.

While I have strong differences with Christian reconstructionism, I understand this starting point. We started in a similar place in our book. We did not write it to attack Christianity (as if fact checking Barton is an attack on Christianity), we wrote the book to uphold our faith. A little later in the article, McDurmon calls me a liberal (compared to McDurmon, most people are liberals). It is all the more striking that McDurmon and I come to similar conclusions about the factual problems with The Jefferson Lies. As with other evangelical figures and groups (Chuck Dunn, Colson’s Breakpoint, World magazine), no one can accuse McDurmon and American Vision of being liberal.

I encourage readers to review the entire article, but here is a taste of McDurmon’s analysis of the claim that Thomas Jefferson was theologically orthodox throughout most of his adult years:

Yet Barton selectively quotes [Benjamin] Rush to give just the opposite appearance of Jefferson’s views. Indeed, he uses this sole piece of butchered evidence to prove his claim that “for nearly every Christian doctrine that Jefferson called into question in his last fifteen years, there were times in his earlier sixty-eight years when he had embraced that very same doctrine as orthodox.”[10] As we have seen, this is utter nonsense, and is unsupported by anything Barton has presented. It is not clear by any means that Jefferson at any time in his life held orthodox Christian views. That anyone would claim otherwise, especially upon such terrible evidence, is a disservice to both historical scholarship and the Christian faith.

With all of these exaggerated and outright dishonest claims about Jefferson, there is indeed one thing about Barton’s book that is apt: its title, The Jefferson Lies. They abound not only from the “academic collectivists” and “deconstructionists,” but in this book as well.

As such, it is no surprise that when alerted, Thomas Nelson reacted as quickly as it did.

Bam! By which I mean, he nailed it.

McDurmon closes by telling his readers that he cannot recommend the book because they would need to fact check everything.

While a book like this needs to be written vindicating Jefferson from much liberal nonsense, the reader nonetheless will need to fact-check nearly every claim Barton makes for accuracy. And this is way too much to ask of the average reader. If that is to be the task, it would be better to skip Barton’s book altogether and go read all of Jefferson’s papers directly, because that what the reader will have to do eventually anyway.

Or you can get Getting Jefferson Right where we do the heavy lifting and point you in the right way.

This article is a significant shift for American Vision. Currently, they are hosting, with Kirk Cameron, a cruise featuring the movie Monumental which prominently features David Barton’s stories. If McDurmon submits Barton’s work in Monumental to the same scrutiny as he did to The Jefferson Lies in this article, then there will be a need for a disclaimer at the beginning and end of that movie.


Reading list for those who are dominionism deniers

As a public service for those Christian pundits who are having trouble seeing the dominionists in their midst, I am constructing a reading list of online reources. Since they sometimes partner with the authors and groups mentioned here, surely this list will help them spot the tell-tale signs of Christian folks who want to impose biblical law on those who do not believe in biblical law. My suggestions are provided in no particular order and I will add to them as I find suitable resources. Here is my first entry:
Ruler of Nations by Gary DeMar – Gary DeMar runs American Vision, a group that last year put on a worldview conference, sponsored in part by Liberty Law School. In his book 1992 Ruler of Nations, Gary DeMar wrote about the D-word:

The loss of dominion by Christians did not just happen. A study of our nation’s history will show that there was a time when the majority of the people were self-consciously Christian in their outlook. Even those who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord still looked upon Christianity as the cornerstone of a Christian civilization. Over time, the idea of a Christian civilization waned. What was gained was soon lost, not by a military coup, but simply by the passivity of Christians. Dominion will not return through magic or even through a barrage of miracles. We cannot wait on dominion. It will not drop in our laps from heaven. There must be a starting point. Faithfulness is the word. (pp. 213-214)

DeMar does not call for violent overthrow of the government. Rather, he hopes like-minded people will run for office and vote to limit the size of government which will lead to a more biblical society. He explains:

Christians should run for office, in order to get power in the
various government hierarchies. Then they should vote against
every expansion of power and every tax hike and every bond
issue. The State must be cut back.
This is the battle: the belief that the State is the only important
government. As self-governed Christians, we must work to cut
back the unbridled power and authority of the State. Dominion in
the area of civil government does not mean that we desire the
escalating power base available to those who seek and hold office.
Rather, we should run for elected office to pull on the reins of
power, to slow the growth of power run wild.
But Christians must also recognize that we need a peaceful
transfer of power to a new Bible-based system of multiple authorities. They must recognize that God will drive out our enemies little by little, over many years (Exodus 23:29, 30). We are not to become revolutionaries. We are not to impose a top-down tyranny to ram the Bible down people’s throats. The goal is to use every means available to educate voters, and only then to transform their increasingly Biblical outlook into legislation. Mostly, it will be legislation abolishing past legislation. (p. 217).

The D-word shows up all over this book, and here are some steps to take to get it.

The first step in overturning the messianic State is to place ourselves under God’s law. We must meditate on the law. We must make the 119th psalm our hymn of obedience.
The second step is to teach our children the law (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). We must demonstrate to them by our actions that we are self-governed by the law.
Third, we must proclaim the law to others. We must abandon the false theology that New Testament Christians are in no sense obligated to obey God’s Old Testament law. We obey the sacrificial law by baptizing people and eating the Lord’s Supper. We obey Biblical laws against murder, adultery, and many other capital crimes in the Bible.
Fourth, we must elect public officials who say they will vote for Biblical laws. First and foremost, this means voting to prohibit abortion. While few Christians are willing to go this far, the long term goal should be the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty. If abortionists are not supposed to be executed, then they are not murderers, and if they are not murderers, why do we want to abolish abortion? In short, Christians must learn to think consistently. (pp. 217-218).

Believe me, most pro-life people would like to see abortion restricted but we don’t want the state to kill anyone. There is a tell-tale sign of a dominionist. Wherever the Bible invokes death, they want to do that now; like for gays, disobedient children, blasphemers, idolatry and so on.
Actually, this isn’t the first book on the list. I already examined a 2011 by Stephen Che Halbrook, titled God is Just: A Defense of Old Testament Civil Laws. Halbrook completed a shorter version of his book for his master’s thesis at Regent University. There are chapters defending the death penalty for gays, adulterers, blasphemers, disobedient children, etc., as well as descriptions of how one should set up stonings and burnings.
This is only a beginning. I will put up some more links soon.

What dominionists would do with gays (disobedient children, sabbath breakers, etc.), Part 3

On Monday and Tuesday, I published posts examining what dominionists (short hand for Christians who believe Old Testament law should be the basis for civil law) recommend for people who violate aspects of Mosaic law. Today, I briefly examine a 2011 book by Stephen Che Halbrook titled, God is Just: A Defense of the Old Testament Civil Laws.
The book is an extension of a Master’s thesis presented at Regent University in 2008. The thesis and the book calls on government to use the Old Testament moral code as a basis for civil law, including the death penalty for blasphemy, idolatry, sabbath-breaking, disobedient children, adulterers and gays.
Halbrook runs the Theonomy Resources and teaches at The New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy. New Geneva is a college-level school which is endorsed by American Vision’s Gary DeMar, Chaplain Ray Moore, of Frontline Ministries and the Exodus Mandate, and Mark Rushdoony, son of R. J. Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism.
Basically, Halbrook says that capital punishment for violators of biblical law benefits society. Throughout the book he makes the case that the laws governing all of us should reflect “God’s law as applied to the realm of civil government (which is mostly found in the Older Testament).” (p.xxi). Here is a sampling of recommendations for capital sanctions. On disobedient children he writes:

To all this we must add that capital sanctions for those who repudiate parental authority protect the family from treason. Many today would think capital punishment for treason against the family is extreme, but on the other hand, capital punishment for treason against the state is a necessity. (p. 205)

On Sabbath-breaking:

Given the evidence that criminality begins with Sabbath breaking, we see the importance of the Sabbath capital sanction. Fear of execution by the state deters many would-be criminals from embracing a life of crime and executing innocent people. Thus the more lax society becomes regarding the Bible’s penalty for Sabbath-breaking, the more society can expect to contend with crime. “[T]he wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and so we shouldn’t be surprised that the wages of the heinous sin of Sabbath breaking on a societal level results in death on a societal level. (p. 191)

In general, God’s law as understood by Reconstructionist authors is to be the law of the land. On sanctions against blasphemy, Halbrook writes:

In sum, the purpose of civil government is not primarily to defend the rights of man, but the rights of God. God’s rights over the state entail the state’s requirement to recognize God as Lord over the state (i.e., the highest political authority), and the state’s requirement to execute God’s wrath in His prescribed manner. This in no way diminishes human rights, but increases them. As we can see from the necessity of theocentric laws that we discussed, to disregard God’s rights—which are the rights from which all human rights derive—is to disregard man’s rights. And what right of God is more fundamental than not to be blasphemed? (p. 155)

This is similar to the thinking of Islamic clerics who defend anti-blasphemy laws in Islamic countries such as Pakistan, where Christian mother of five, Asia Bibisits in a prison cell waiting to see if her sentence of death for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed will be carried out. Of course, among the other capital sanctions, Halbrook has a chapter on “sodomite” acts. He begins this chapter:

Before exploring this topic, we must note that Christians must evangelize sodomites. This in no way conflicts with the capital sanction against those convicted of engaging in sodomite acts, a sanction which helps protect potential sodomites from themselves as well as society, as we shall see, from suicide.

Aren’t you warmed by the fact that he wants to “evangelize” and “protect potential sodomites from themselves?” Halbrook’s chapter about gays is filled with quotes from Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika (the book is refuted here). Drawing on Lively’s characterization of National Socialism as a “sodomite movement,” Halbrook justifies his position:

But as we have seen, justifying sodomy on the grounds of it being a private act doesn’t work, because it contributes greatly to a society’s cup of iniquity that can result in God’s destruction of that society. What good is it for a society to promote the freedom for all to participate in the lifestyle of their choice if a society isn’t around to promote it?

The 503 page book is comprehensive in defense of applying Old Testament law to civil life, even including a chapter defending stoning and burning as methods of capital punishment. One endorser of the book is Buddy Hanson. Hanson is the Alabama representative to the Exodus Mandate, a home school support group which calls for all Christians to remove their children from the public school. Hanson wrote in support:

With God’s grace, God Is Just: A Defense Of The Old Testament Civil Laws will be used to bring American Christians to repentance and back to honoring God’s Word through their daily decisions.

Halbrook cites Hanson (as well as R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, etc.) as providing justification for imposing biblical laws on a society. Halbrook writes:

And so Buddy Hanson is correct: “By not ‘imposing’ Christian beliefs on others, we allow them to ‘impose’ their beliefs on us.”455 (This endorses imposing Christian beliefs about biblical law—it does not endorse imposing conversions.) Pluralism is no less impositional than other political system—and actually, it is potentially the most impositional. Being polytheistic and thereby lacking anything beyond the coercion of the state by which to unite others, pluralism naturally tends towards outright totalitarianism, and even imperialism. (pp. 169-170).

Do unto others before they do unto you.
Some readers may believe I am giving too much attention to what appears to be a movement on the fringe of the evangelical community. Clearly, a large portion of evangelicals would be offended by this book and feel out of place in the churches where this teaching is offered. If anything, bringing this to light highlights just how diverse evangelicalism is.
Still, theonomy (the term those in the movement prefer) cannot be ignored. The groups in the theonomy world (American Vision, Exodus Mandate, Vision Forum) have political influence within the Christian Right and seek broader impact. If Halbrook is correct, some theonomists have designs on infiltrating the broader Christian Right to pursue their goals. Mostly, Halbrook criticizes the Christian right for being aligned with political conservatism, writing

The Christian Right—the largest group of politically-active Christians in America—rejects the Bible’s requirement of the state to uphold the O.T. civil laws. Instead, it embraces political conservatism. But conservatism, as pointed out, lacks an unchanging moral anchor (see Appendix D). Thus the Christian Right is handicapped by its marriage with political conservatism.

However, quoting a 1992 book by Matthew Moen, Halbrook holds out hope that perhaps Reconstructionists could save the Christian right:

Other evidence that the secularization of the Christian Right may be limited to that time frame [the Reagan era] is found in the emergence of Christian Reconstructionism. It emphasizes the utility of the first five books of the Old Testament for ordering contemporary American society, a goal that Bruce Barron and Anson Shupe have noted proceeds well beyond the Christian Right in scope yet has certain affinities related to ‘recapturing’ institutions from secular forces. … [T]he penetration of the Christian Right by Reconstructionists may halt, or even reverse, the process of secularization described. (from Moen, 1992, p. 425 in Halbrook).

While such a take over may be no more likely now than in 1992, I am concerned that theonomists and dominionists of several persuasions, notably the New Apostolic Reformation movement, continues to make gains in GOP and evangelical circles.
See also Part 1 and Part 2 in the series about what dominionists would do with gays. Part 1 examines the differences between New Apostolic Reformation dominionists and the Christian Reconstructionist variety. Part 2 briefly describes the views of the American Family Association spokesperson on criminalizing homosexual activity.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has some American defenders

Sadly, some in America defend Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. A brief summary:

I have already noted that Scott Lively is defending himself and the bill by saying it is a “step in the right direction.” A few are emerging to agree.

Gary Demar runs an organization called American Vision and recently posted this piece by Joel McDurmon, A Perfect Hatred. This article reveals an extreme form of Calvinist dominionism, writing:

Now, it just so happens that God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty. Warren disagrees. He argues, “Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect.” Of course, Jesus never claimed to suffer and die for all; He claimed to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Heb. 2:10; 9:28). Likewise, God did not create all for unqualified “respect,” but some to be vessels of dishonor and destruction (Rom. 9:21–23).

Odd that this writer would quote the New Testament book of Hebrews since that book designates a new and better way than law keeping as a means of relating to God. American Vision’s motto is “exercising servanthood dominion” which depicts the aim of this group: Equipping and Empowering Christians to Restore America’s Biblical Foundation (Psalm 11:3). Apparently, the church is supposed to enact biblical law (except maybe the law of love) as they understand it and rule as a theocracy.

This blogger thinks the bill is just fine and needed here as well. Another Calvinist dominionist.

Some are believing the spin that the bill only punishes child abuse and rape and become defenders in ignorance. Vox Populi says it took him “thirty seconds of research” to learn that critics are misleading people. The irony? He linked to the copy of the bill hosted here.  This is the same copy linked to by the NYT, WashPo and SF Chronicle. What seems clear to me is that he only read for about 30 seconds and closed his eyes.

Others are defending some of the people involved. For instance, this news release from the World Congress of Families defends Don Schmierer.  The news release focuses on Schmierer but includes Brundidge and Lively when it states:

Don Schmierer and two other evangelicals from the United States spoke in Uganda last March.  In the course of their remarks, they discussed the ability of individuals to mend broken family relationships, change destructive behaviors, and to leave the homosexual lifestyle. 

Apparently, the WCF doesn’t need to explore the facts about the situation.  In my view, they fail to grasp the fullness of what was done there, especially the venom of Scott Lively. In fact, Don Schmierer understands the anger directed his way as he notes in this interview with the Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel:

“It wasn’t what we agreed on for advertising,” Schmierer said. “He had me write out 45-minute speech on healthy parenting. I found out a week before I got there he made it a three-day event and added more people. One guy was speaking on fighting the gay agenda. The way we were all listed on the program, I can see why people lump us together.” 

And then there is this very strange article by “Accuracy in Media’s” Cliff Kincaid, asserting that somehow Uganda came along to divert attention from Kevin Jennings’ problems. Ironically, Kincaid’s rendering of the bill is inaccuracy in media while blaming others for creating a stir over Uganda to get Jennings off the hook.  And then in strange-article-#2, Kincaid takes on every gay related story in one place, mentioning that the Uganda bill “goes too far even for pro-family” advocates. Reading the rest of the article, I have to wonder if he is one of those pro-family advocates.

Readers: Let me know if you see any other groups defending the bill or those associated with it.

UPDATE: Lively now endorses the bill.